SECTION THREE: God revealed as Lord of Grace
The ministry of the Holy Spirit is one of comforting. “Paraclete ministry, by its very nature, is personal, relational ministry, implying the full personhood of the one who fulfils it.” He is God just as the Father and the Son are God but is a distinct person within the Godhead.
Salvation is totally of God. It is the salvation from sin and its hold on us and from the wrath of our previous position as sinners. The death of Christ in our place results in Christ living in us so that we may live eternally in heaven loving the God of such a great salvation. God in His infinite wisdom and divine prerogative has chosen who will receive the gift of salvation and left those He has not chosen in their natural sinful state. The elect of God are chosen without any foreseen merit on their part. God the Holy Spirit performs a work of effectually drawing or calling all those whom God has elected before the foundation of the world. Due to the fallen nature of man the only way a sinner comes to God is through this work of God.
The illumination of the Holy Spirit brings us a knowledge of the workings of God as revealed in scripture. “The way to benefit fully from the Spirit’s ministry of illumination is by serious Bible study, serious prayer, and serious response in obedience to whatever truths one has been shown already. This corresponds to Luther’s dictum that three things make a theologian: oratio (prayer), meditatio (thinking in God’s presence about the text), and tentatio (trial, the struggle for biblical fidelity in the face of pressure to disregard what Scripture says).”
Regeneration or being born again finds its background in Eze. 36:25-27 where we read of the monergeristic work of God performed on the sinner. This work of God must be performed before the heart can change and believe actively in God.
We are saved by faith without the works of the law, but our faith is never alone but, “produces moral fruit; it expresses itself ‘through love’ (Gal. 5:6); it transforms one’s way of living; it begets virtue.”
Repentance is a turning away from the former life and starting anew. This happens when we are changed by God the Holy Spirit and regenerated. The new nature is the root and repentance is the fruit. The London Baptist Confession of 1689 reads,
XV:3. This saving repentance is an evangelical grace, whereby a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin, doth, by faith in Christ, humble himself for it with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrency, praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose and endeavour, by supplies of the Spirit, to walk before God unto all well-pleasing in all things.
Dr. Packer summarizes the doctrine of justification as, “a judicial act of God pardoning sinners (wicked and ungodly persons, Rom. 4:5; 3:9-24), accepting them as just, and so putting permanently right their previously estranged relationship with himself. This justifying sentence is God’s gift of righteousness (Rom. 5:15-17), his bestowal of a status of acceptance for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor. 5:21).” We are justified entirely in Jesus Christ. The whore of Babylon is mentioned with its works based semi-Pelagianism.
God loves His elect as children and our adoption is a blessing of our justification before Him. Through regeneration we are renewed to life and by adoption our broken relationship due to sin is restored.
God’s work of sanctification is an on going process since the law of sin remains in a believer all his earthly life. As children of God our effort toward holiness is God dependent and Spirit lead. The moral law given so clearly in the Decalogue is our moral rule of life, showing us our sin and by the Spirit we desire to please God by being holy.
“If the son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” The believer is given true liberty in Christ. We are set free from the Law as a system of works for salvation but we are also set from the dominion of sin to rule over us. Vain superstitions have not hold over us, Gnostic ideas of the flesh are rejected and we are “free to enjoy as God’s good gifts all created things and the pleasures they yield…” When someone is seeking God’s favour based upon his own works and arrogance, this is essentially legalism. We receive God’s favour by grace through faith in Jesus Christ because of what He has done and not what we’ve have done. Antinomianism means “against law.” “It must be stressed that the moral law, as crystallized in the Decalogue and opened up in the ethical teaching of both Testaments, is one coherent law, given to be a code of practice for God’s people in every age.”
The underlying characteristic of Christian love is obedience to God unto death by placing others before oneself. This love is not just a emotional but based on action and obedience is expressed in our actions. The entire purpose of all things created is to bring God glory, this is no less true of our human existence, we exist to bring God glory. This enterprise is interrelated with all other aspects of theological thinking. We love and hope in our great God so we do what He commands for it brings glory to Him when we do, not only His commands but also in our thinking and artist expression.
When we come to faith the Holy Spirit leads us to pray in adoration, praise, confession and thanksgiving. “There is no tension or inconsistency between the teaching of Scripture on God’s sovereign foreordination of all things and on the efficacy of prayer. God foreordains the means as well as the end, and our prayer is foreordained as the means whereby he brings his sovereign will to pass.”
Christians are called to live in truth and integrity because we know truth personally in Jesus Christ. This includes gossip and bearing false witness against out neighbour. If we take an oath or make a vow we are commanded by God to keep it and complete the obligation quickly. (expound the 9th commandment)
Dr. Packer expresses the Kingdom of God as “already, not yet.”
The Apostles represented Christ and were different from His disciples.
God has assembled His elect in the church. Throughout redemptive history God has called His chosen into community. The church gathers around the faithful preaching of the word and the proper use and administration of the sacraments. The body of Christ is cared for by Elders who shepherd and lead God’s people assisted by deacons who perform the “ministry of mercy.” Dr. Packer outlines the sacraments as baptism and the Lord’s Supper quoting the Westminster and the 39 Articles. “The sacraments are rightly viewed as means of grace, for God makes them means to faith, using them to strengthen faith’s confidence in his promises and to call forth acts of faith for receiving the good gifts signified.”
Baptism is the outward sign of an inward grace signifying the “cleansing and remission of sins” and newness of life. Dr. Packer mentions immersion, dipping or sprinkling as valid forms of the ordinance. The Lord’s Supper is a ceremonial meal we partake of signifies our communion with God and our need to feed upon “the bread of life,” that is, Jesus Christ.
Dr. Packer explains how discipline or “judicial correctives have a significant place in the maturing of churches and individuals.” Church discipline, both private and public, is to bring the sinner to repentance and bring them back into the fold.
Missions have a two fold purpose; one being the proclamation of the Gospel and the second is to pursue acts of kindness.
“Marriage is an exclusive relationship in which a man and a woman commit themselves to each other in covenant for life, and on the basis of this solemn vow become “one flesh” physically.” The Reformed Confessions are excellent on explaining in simple terms the nature of covenant marriage.
The family is the foundation of society. The duty of parents are to train their children to fear and honour God, to lead them to a saving relationship with Christ by instruction and example, always pointing them to the Christ.
The perseverance of the saints is a comforting doctrine for those who look to Christ and Christ alone for salvation.
SECTION FOUR: God revealed as Lord of Destiny
In section four Dr. Packer gives us a few nuances to doctrinal statements found in the Reformed Confessions. I didn’t feel it necessary to write a summary of this last section.